The Numazu Midlands, the feet of Mt Ashitaka

18 09 2010

The Numazu Midlands, the feet of Mt Ashitaka

Approximately 4km due north of Numazu station you will find the land begin to rise into the Numazu Midlands. This area resides at the foot of Mt Ashitaka a 1505m and is an excellent location for a day hike and a look at Japanese rural life and nature.

Walking up beyond the Shinkansen tracks you emerge into an area with rolling fields of tea. If you are a curious explorer I recommend you find your way down into a valley, find a path and enjoy the vegetable small holdings thatare interspersed among the tea.
Rootplants
Making your way beyond the tea fields across the Tomei Expressway and try and find yourself an old dirt track that will take your through some small pockets of forest in the area. In Summer you will find a large variety of wild flower and signs of wildlife including wild boar.
Small holding
From almost any access point to the Numazu Midlands you will find something interesting to see for the hiker or mountain bike enthusiast. Check out my video to catch a glimpse of what you might find on your trip to the foot of Ashitaka Mountain.
Yellow Goya
Scott Donald





The Hara-Ashitaka Circuit – Part 2

1 12 2007

This is part two of of the two part story on the sights of greater Numazu.

Moving north from central Hara, I make my way to the ruins of Kokokuji Castle. This castle was where Hojo Soun cut his teeth on politics and war during the Sengoku Period1(5th to 17 century). While this place would not doubt present a gold mine for amateur archeologists, there is nothing of the old castle to see but the grassed platforms where the old castle once stood. Regardless, it is well worth a few minutes of contemplation or even a picnic in the sun.

Kokokuji Castle, HaraKokokuji Castle, Hara

Now at the base of Mt Ashitaka it was time to head up the mountain to Akeno Kannondo. Akeno Kannondo is about 1/3 of the way up Mt Ashitaka. There are two roads that lead up to this temple. I decided to follow a road that runs up a draw in the mountain. This was a good choice. It was not long until I stumbles into a beautiful old wooded barn, it timbers almost black with age. This barn resting on the side of the road was a time capsule to another era. A little further up I found another temple and a small school, both covered with giant trees and skirted by a crystal clear stream. I had to remind myself that only 20 minutes earlier I was in a modern industrial suburb.

The barn, AshtakaThe temple near the barn, Ashtaka

It was now time for the hard push up the mountain. I doggedly dropped down gears on my mountain bike and slowly made my way up. On the way up I had to stop for a rest….erh…photo opportunity or two. As I moved from the the draw and onto the spur the forest setting was replaced by a vast expanse of tea shrubs on the ocean facing  side and one of a myriad of golf courses on the other.

Moss and ferns on the way up AshtakaTea fields - Ashtaka

At last, I made it to Akeno Kannondo and I wasn’t disappointed. According to the guide book, this oddly thatched roof temple was constructed in the Edo Period. This temple rests in a pocket of large trees surrounded by tea fields. It has a feeling of an oasis and was all the more tranquil for it.

Akeno Kannono Temple- AshitakaAkeno Kannondo -Temple and Bell

This was the first time that I have seen a thatched roof temple in Japan. I was impressed with its simple beauty in contrast to the more elaborated designs and styles of its more solid siblings. There is a large bell on the grounds that stood tempting me to ring. However, I was bullied out of ringing the bell by the peacefulness of my surroundings. Behind the temple is a line of stone Buddha’s and a home to a very handsome spider.

Akeno Kanonnodo looking out on Tea FieldsPeeking in side Akeno Kannondo

gong today gong tomorrow a bad joke in Akeno Kannondo

After a decent rest and a spiritual moment, it was time for me to lower myself back down into the hedonistic pit from which I was spawned. I paralleled the mountain, taking a new road not on the map, until just past the Ashitaka sports fields and then took a hard right down the mountain towards the Gourmet Way.

Riding down a mountain is always my favourite part of a mountain ride. You know you are about to go home, and fast. It makes the journey up the mountain all worth while just for the exhilarating speed of the descent.

This time the Gourmet Way was not my destination. The Gourmet Way, as the name suggests, is one of Numazu’s main eating streets. This street stretches up Mt Ashitaka from near Ooka Station. On either side of this major road are numerous restaurants of varying style and quality. However, a little further up this road towards the north is another area famous in Numazu, Love Hotel Hill.

This was the purpose of my detour and the last part of my trip. Um, I mean…well… I wasn’t actually going to patronize one of these fine establishment. Well not without my wife. Love hotels are a necessary feature of the urban landscape of Japan. Due to the cramped living conditions of most families many couples don’t have the space at home to get up to any mischief, particular if they have children around. So they leave the kiddies with the grandparents and head of to the couples theme park, The Love Hotel. And theme parks they are.

Love Hotels North NumazuLove Hotels from afar. North Numazu

These colourful Hotels are designed with particular themes in mind. Wandering by these hotels you could be mistaken for feeling like you have been transported to Tokyo Disney. Cartoon animals and images, and strange innuendo pop out at every turn. It is well worth a visit just to take a look.

Leapin frog Love Hotel NumazuWhite house Love - Numazu

Although I haven’t road tested these establishments…yet, I hear on good authority that rooms come in varying themes such as cowboy rooms, to puking pink princess paradises, to dungeons and dragons (well maybe not the dragons). Further there is more than just the obvious form of entertainment to keep you amused for the other 2hours and 55minutes of your 3hours stay. For example, there are spas, Play Stations and big screen TV’s to be enjoyed.

Love Hotels Numazu North Loving love hotels for the coulple with kids and no space

The Hunny Pot Love Hotel Numazu

After, ending my tour on an amusing note it was time to go home and rest my weary legs. The Hara-Ashitaka, area features a reasonable amount of amusement for the traveler. If you have a car then you would have a better chance of seeing the sites of the mountain than I did on my mountain bike. Higher into the mountain, there is a maze of walking and mountain bike tracks for you to enjoy. Mt Ashitaka is a beautiful mountain and well worth the trip. Hara, while industrial in appearance does hold a few secrets spots to enjoy for the inquiring.

For directions to the sites mentioned above check out my map page here,MyMaps at MapBuilder.net





The Hara-Ashitaka circuit – Part 1

1 11 2007

Welcome to Part 1 of a two part series on sites in the greater Numazu area. Part 2 will be along soon. Enjoy.  

It seems that September is the time that I hear the call of the mountains and I clean my mountain bike and prepare for a big ride. Well it could be that or the fact that after returning from an expensive summer vacation the only thing I had left to spend was time.

After locating one of my many Numauz Tourist Guide Books: English (Engrish), I set to planning an expedition. However, after ten minutes I was yet again lost in the priceless text. For example “The left side of the river is provided with walking road for pedestrians…” or “The Kano River has stairs.” While not the most amusing text of Japanese English I have read, the Numazu Tourist Guide Book certainly lightens your mood. I really don’t understand why so many English speaking expats and tourists get so worked up over these grammar mistakes. Really little things like this are an essential part of enjoying another country. We also seem to forget that our attempts at Japanese may be equally amusing for our indigenous friends. When it comes to my attempts at Japanese I am almost certain of it. But I digress.

The guidebook suggested that there are a great many sights in the Hara and Mt Ashitaka areas to the west and north of Numazu city, respectively. It seemed like a good enough plan for me so I set off on my mountain bike and guide in my back pocket to find out.

I first set off for Hara loosely following the route Tokaido Road once took. In the Edo Period, the Tokaido Road was a famous road connecting the old capitals in the Nara, Osaka, Kyoto triangle and the newly formed capital Edo; modern day Tokyo. Later the route was travelled artist Utagawa Hiroshige who crafted the 53 stations of Tokaido (Wikipedia 2007)

The trip to Hara was somewhat uneventful. I chose to take the inland route following the railway line rather than the far more picturesque Senbon Beach path. Most of this area is a combination of low level industrial and housing. It is interesting to find see how the locals blend their hand toiled community and private vegetable gardens with their modern homes. The lack of land in the area means that everything is right on top of each other. Very different to the towns in Australia I have lived in.

Hara vegetable gardens

My first stop was a quick ride around Syoinji Temple before a even quicker look in. This temple has been tastefully modernized, though there is really not very much to see here. I managed to lose my way searching for the Tourist Guide’s recommendation and stumbled across some funky little hand powered water pumps in a small park near Syoinji Temple. These were very cool and I had to play with them. Well, until some old ladies started to stare at me like I was the town idiot (very intuitive old ladies).

pump it up Hara

After a few more minutes I found my Tourist Guide checkpoint, Hakuin Zenji. Apparently an anonymous poem, by a possible member of this particular temple, declaired this temple and Mt Fuji are the two most excellent points of this area. Well, Hakuin Zenji wasn’t too bad. That is of course, depending on whether or not I had found said grounds and not some anonymous temple. The picture in the guide made it look a lot bigger than what it was so I am not too certain. Anyway, this proud little grounds featured below had some excellent example of stone work dragons and the gardens tall trees created a cool and mysterous mood to this place.

Possibly Hakuin Zenji

Stay tuned for part two of “The Hara-Ashitaka circuit.” Meanwhile check out my maps for some directions from my journey.  

References

Hiroshige. (2007, October 17). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:04, October 31, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hiroshige&oldid=165124153

Numazu Tourist Association (publish date unknown) Numazu Tourist Gide Book; English; Numazu Tourist Association.